PCA battles injuries while celebrating title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Over the last five years, Porters Chapel Academy has been no stranger to changing lineups.

In that span, it has had four different starting quarterbacks, four different leading rushers, and a rotating cast of effective receivers and linemen. All pretty typical for an MPSA Class A school.

What hasn’t been typical is PCA’s success. Despite the constant turnover, the Eagles keep rolling along. They clinched their fifth straight playoff berth, and third district championship in five years, with a 26-13 win over Central Hinds on Friday. It was a win that has typified the Eagles’ style — a little glitz, solid overall play, and a willingness to make adjustments on the fly that has kept them among the MPSA’s elite for half a decade.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve had some really great athletes that have been able to run our system and do what we want to do,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “My philosophy is we have to adapt our style to the personnel we have. We don’t have the benefit of having 70 or 80 kids to choose from.”

The reality of Wright’s statement has hit home the last few weeks. A rash of injuries has hit PCA hard. Tight end Reed Gordon, who leads the team with 17 receptions for 264 yards and four touchdowns, suffered a knee injury in the second quarter Friday and did not return. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.

In addition to Gordon, linemen Stewart Williams (knee), Josh Hill (back) and Caze Brewer (hip) and linebacker Jeremy Roach (knee bruise) have all been limited or missed games the last three weeks.

Middle linebacker Joe Borrello dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago against Jackson, Ala., and was suffering from a stomach bug on Friday that caused him to vomit several times in the hours leading up to the game. Despite his illness, Borrello played every snap at center and linebacker against Central Hinds.

“We’re not healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys playing hurt,” Wright said. “I’m not sure I’ve got anybody that’s 100 percent, without any nicks or anything.”

The injuries may force Wright to change his philosophy a bit as the playoffs approach. Although he has often said he likes his players to play as much as possible to stay sharp, he admitted he’s considering resting a number of starters the last two games of the regular season.

With the district title clinched, PCA’s last two games against Benton and Franklin are essentially meaningless. PCA will host a first-round playoff game, and another in the second round if they advance, regardless of the outcome.

“I’m going to start evaluating that on Monday and see who needs to sit,” Wright said. “Literally, we may only be dressing out 16 or 17 kids the next two weeks.”

The first hint of the injuries affecting PCA was obvious on Friday. With Roach, the team’s third-leading tackler, not even dressed for the game, the Eagles had a hard time stopping Central Hinds’ rushing attack. Central Hinds threw one pass on its two first-half drives, and drove inside the PCA 10-yard line both times. Once Gordon, who also plays defensive end, went out, the problem got worse. Central Hinds’ first three drives of the second half netted 51, 76 and 58 yards and two touchdowns. If not for two missed field goals and a botched snap on another attempt, PCA might have been in serious trouble.

CHA rushed for 229 yards as a team in the game. Jordan Townsend led the Cougars with 171 yards and a TD, and Conner Brown added 70 yards and a score.

“Our gameplan changed entirely when Reed went down. He and Jeremy Roach were the right side of our defense, and that’s right where they were running,” Wright said.

PCA still managed to be efficient enough on offense to secure the victory. Discounting a possession at the end of the first half that started with 10 seconds left and another at the end of the game that consisted of a clock-killing kneeldown, the Eagles scored on four of their six drives.

Two touchdowns came on their first two drives, and a third on a 52-yard pass from Clayton Holmes to Colby Rushing that made it 19-0 late in the third quarter. Central Hinds rallied to cut it to 19-12, but was stopped on downs with 3:35 left in the game and Holmes sealed the win with a 21-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds remaining.

“With the limited amounts of touches we were getting, we felt we had to put points on the board every time,” Wright said. “We had two possessions in the first half and scored two touchdowns. You can’t ask for any more than that.”


Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com